Why men are featured more than women in media coverage

Five sociologists argue the higher number of media mentions of men is tied to how leaders are covered and who gets to be a leader:

A related test of this could then look at social sectors where women are in more positions of leadership and see whether men and women have more parity in media mentions.

There are also issues here with causation going both ways. Leaders are at the top of social hierarchies partly because the media pays them so much attention. People could be in particular important positions – like leading companies or in top posts of governments – but not all of these positions get equal time. In other words, the media plays in important role in influencing who is viewed as an important leader in the first place.

Even Utopia needs followers

After watching a number of the early episodes and reading several reviews, I think I know one thing the new reality show Utopia is missing: followers. As some have noted, the show seems to feature a number of outgoing and stubborn personalities. These can be the sort of people reality shows attract: go-getters who are there to win. Even though Utopia doesn’t have the typical winning as it has mostly eschewed competitions (except surviving for an entire year and sending out one person a month), it also appeals to strong-willed survivalists who think they have the right skills in creating a new society.

But, to work in the long-term, every larger society needs followers, people willing to support leaders as well as do a lot of the basic work that needs to be done. Without that, you end up with a lot of disagreement about what should be done and little actual work. If they really worked with leaders and followers, the band on Utopia could really accomplish things: imagine 15 adults working to expand the garden or digging trenches for irrigation. This may happen eventually as the group settles in but the lack of followers in hindering them at this point.

This also reminds me of Karl Marx’s ideas about what a socialistic utopia would look like. This is a quote from “The German Ideology“:

In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.

This gives a lot of freedom to individuals but sometimes society does need tasks done.

“Who Governs” the city?

Political scientist Robert Dahl authored the influential 1961 book Who Governs? and here is a quick summary of his work upon his recent death:

His career lasted for more than half a century, but he was best known for the 1961 publication “Who Governs?” Cited by the Times Literary Supplement as among the 100 most influential books since World War II, “Who Governs?” probed the political system of Dahl’s own community at the time, New Haven, which he considered an ideal microcosm for the country: two strong parties, a long history and a careful progression from patrician rule to self-made men to party rule, where candidates of varied ethnic and economic backgrounds – a garage owner, an undertaker, a director of publicity – might succeed.

Dahl wanted to know who really ran the city, and, by extension, the country. Sociologist C. Wright Mills, in “The Power Elite,” had written that wealth and power were concentrated within a tiny group of people. Dahl believed no single entity was in charge. Instead, there were competing ones – social, economic and political leaders whose goals often did not overlap. He acknowledged that many citizens did not participate in local issues and that the rich had advantages over the poor, but concluded that New Haven, while a “republic of unequal citizens,” was still a republic.

Dahl’s conclusions were strongly challenged in the 1970s by sociologist G. William Domhoff, who used research provided in part by Dahl himself to find that he had underestimated the power of the business community and overestimated the divisions among New Haven’s leaders. Domhoof alleged that Dahl relied too much on the people he spoke with.

“It may be that the most serious criticism I can make of Dahl is that he never should have done this interview-based study in the first place, for it was doomed from the start to fall victim to the ambitions and plans of the politicians, planners, lawyers and businessmen that he was interviewing,” Domhoff wrote.

Impressive – many social scientists could only dream of having a book that is named among the most influential.

This debate is related to a leading perspective in urban sociology, the political economy paradigm, which argues that urban development is the result of powerful and politically connected actors. In cities and suburbs, development is often the work of politicians and the FIRE industries – finance, insurance, and real estate – working together to make money. These groups, dubbed growth machines, can access a range of resources not available to average citizens including credit, political influence, and public booster efforts often led by leading citizens and local media. Across cities and locales, the particular configuration of growth machines can differ but the key is to know where to first look when understanding development.

Politicians and their responses to snow (and other events)

Is it any surprise that Mayor Daley of Chicago has been absent from the response to snowstorm of recent days? What exactly could he gain at this point in his career?

We know from recent history that politicians have plenty to lose in such circumstances. Look at Mayor Bloomberg in New York a month or so ago – if he can’t even get the snow plows working, how could he achieve higher office? Past Chicago mayors, such as Michael Bilandic, have been burned by snow.

My guess is that this is one of those situations where people in charge get little credit if all goes smoothly but proportionately more blame if things go poorly. People expect that services like snow plowing or garbage pick-up are just going to happen and tend to only notice this when that service is interrupted. Right now in Chicago there seems to be game of political hot-potato over the number of people trapped overnight on Tuesday on Lake Shore Drive. Who exactly is responsible – should Mayor Daley have to answer for this? Shouldn’t someone have had some plan in place? More broadly, do most cities sit and think about worst-case scenarios so that they have at least thought about some of these issues?

This may not be a fair process on the part of the public: the leader can’t control everything. But when something goes wrong, the public also expects that the leader is ultimately responsible and is responsive to the needs of the citizenry. If not, if those basic services don’t come through, the blame often goes right to the top.

Identifying four types of Evangelical leaders

A new sociological study examines how Evangelical business leaders mix faith and business:

A new study based on interviews with hundreds of American leaders who are evangelical Christians (including CEOs, presidents, and chairs of large businesses and their equivalents in government and politics, nonprofits, arts, entertainment, the media, and sports) finds enormous variety in how leaders engage their personal faith in workplace decision-making.

“While everyone in the workplace has to make decisions—whether they’re the janitor or the manager—the most consequential decisions are made at the top, and we wanted to look at how they affect their businesses,” says D. Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University.

Lindsay found that most evangelical leaders fit into one of four decision-making categories: pragmatic, heroic, circumspect, and brazen.

Read about the four types in the rest of the article. The study suggests that Evangelicals live out their faith in a variety of ways. What predicts which type people fall into? And then how does acting as this type as a business leader affect their organization?

Of course, one could always ask if there is a more correct type…